Lily Allen Details Battle With Addiction and Low Point of Debating Doing Heroin

While reflecting on her sobriety, Lily Allen looked back at her history with addiction and how being on tour with Miley Cyrus led her to act out.

By Elyse Dupre Jan 14, 2021 7:07 PMTags
Watch: Lily Allen Faced "Extreme Bullying" By Tabloids Early in Career

Lily Allen is speaking out about her history with addiction.

Allen didn't have the easiest upbringing, as she admitted during the Jan. 13 episode of The Recovery podcast. In the early days of her childhood, she lived in an apartment in what she called a very "artsy, clubby" part of London with her mom and dad.

"There were lots of different people that sort of, like, lived in the same buildings that would look after me," she recalled. "And my mom would sort of not come home from work or be at some club and someone would take over from one of the nannies or whatever they're called, babysitters."

Her parents split when she was 4, and her father left. After a few years, Allen moved with her mom to another part of London, where she was often left to her own devices. "When I think of my childhood, I don't see my mom and dad in it," the artist told host DJ Fat Tony. "Like, they weren't really around a lot. It was more about my friends."

Lily Allen's Famous Friends

Allen went on to attend a Catholic school and then a boarding school, which is when she said her drinking started. While she didn't enjoy the feeling of being drunk, she did like the attention she received. "And I think I became addicted or co-dependent at that point," she stated, "because I started getting my value from attention of others and that is something that has played out until relatively recently really."

After dropping out of school she found herself hanging out in London and uploading music to MySpace, which caused her career to take off. But despite releasing her debut album at 21 and earning a Grammy nomination, she still wasn't happy. 

"All I wanted was affirmation and praise and I didn't even really get it then. I got it from strangers, but I didn't really get it from the people I wanted it from," she said. "In fact, I was kind of met with a bit of resentment from those people. Taking responsibility for my own actions, you know, I definitely like buried my head in drugs and alcohol, but I was really sad."

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The press didn't help. During the interview, Allen recalled newspapers writing comments like, "you're too fat" and "you can't sing." 

"Of course, you know, when you're waking up to that news every day, you just want to escape it," she said. "And I very much used drugs and alcohol as a means of escaping that feeling."

Ultimately, as she continued to feel "really worthless," she turned to drugs and alcohol. "I would spend my days, like, beating myself up and believing all of this stuff that was being written about me," she said, "and then I would, like, spend my nights proving it wrong in a hotel room with five other addicts."

At 24, Allen married Sam Cooper, and the two experienced their first heartbreak after the stillbirth of their son George. They also welcomed two daughters, Ethel, 9 and Marnie, 8. But six months after their youngest was born, Allen and Cooper "ran out of money" and she had to head back out on tour.

"I was 14 stones and just did not feel like a pop star at all," she said. "So, I started taking this drug called Adderall, which is like speed, to lose the weight. And then I got addicted to this drug because it made me sort of, like, invincible and I could work really long hours and be all the different people that I was required to be at the time."

Her experience on Miley Cyrus' 2014 Bangerz Tour didn't help. "It was a very highly sexualized tour and, you know, I had just spent the last three years pushing babies out," Allen recalled. "It couldn't have been less what I felt like. And also, I'd never ever supported someone. So, I was sort of like re-entering this phase of being a pop star again but not doing it on my terms anymore. I was supporting this girl who was much younger and more attractive than I felt."

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As a result, she started acting out. "I started cheating on my husband," she shared on the podcast. "I had always really drunk alcohol to take the edge off of the drugs. And then I realized that I was getting up in the morning and just going straight to the minibar and downing those mini vodka bottles or whiskey, whatever was left, and without the drugs anymore. I was like, 'I think I've got a drinking problem.'"

There was one night in Los Angeles that particularly sticks in her mind. As Allen recalled, "I remember being in LA and thinking like, 'None of this acting out is working anymore. Maybe I should try heroin.'" 

That's when she knew she needed help. "I'd been in a scene where—a scene what happens to, you know, people that use heroin—and knew that when that thought popped into my head it was time to confront whatever it was, confront my demons," she said. "That was about five years ago. And I started recovery." 

Though she attended 90 meetings in 90 days, she didn't feel truly committed to the program. "I was just like, 'I just want to get to six months,'" she said. "'Once I'm there, at least I know I can stop this when I need to know.'"

Six months later, she began drinking again—and it destroyed her world. "I lost my marriage; I lost my house that I'd work for 10 years to buy; my career started just sinking and I lost all my friends," Allen, who split from Cooper in 2016 and finalized their divorce in 2018, admitted. "I didn't have any of my friendships anymore. I was so resentful, so angry all the time. Really felt like the world owed me stuff and I got the raw end of the deal. That went on for another four years and then I ended up back in the rooms again."

When asked what changed this time, the artist thought it over. "It's surrender, you know, more than anything and acceptance and gratitude," she replied. "I mean, I'm not great at my step work. At the moment, I haven't got a sponsor. But I do do my gratitude every day. You know, I get up in the morning and I do my gratitude list and I try and do my gratitude list when I go to bed as well every night. And I feel like that really keeps me in check—as well as meetings, going to meetings regularly." 

Today, Allen is sober and fully embracing happiness and time with her family. "It's really great," she raved. "[I'm] in the process of, breaking that cycle, you know? I felt so guilty about neglecting my kids in those early years of their life and having to go off on tour and misbehave in the way that I was. I really have, like, a great relationship with my kids now. I'm there to pick them up at the school gates whenever I can be, and I'm off dropping them off in the morning, and I'll make them dinner, and they'll come to me when they've got problems, and that's, like, golden to me."

She's also in a happy and healthy relationship with David Harbour, who she quietly wed in September. "He's sober, has been sober for 20 years now," she added. "We're thinking about what we're going to do with the rest of our lives."

Now, Allen can smile once again. "I don't have as much as I had then in terms of success and wealth," she said, "but I have success and health in my mind, which is more valuable I think."